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New Album Releases Sept. 29, 2009: Alice in Chains, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Elvis Costello, Steve Vai

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Slim pickin' and easy targets sums up our New Album Releases for this week, coming to you a day late and a dollar short. Either I'm getting soft in my old age or something is really wrong when Mariah Carey's new album isn't the most offensive item on this list. Before we mock her and the other outrages on this list, let's take a look at the new album from "Alice in Chains."

Alice in Chains
Black Gives Way to Blue

I came of age during the years when glam metal gave way to grunge. I went all in on the Seattle sound, having lived there as many of these bands were in their indie, embryonic stages. Alice in Chains was and is my favorite of them all. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, and Mudhoney are all special to me, but Alice "outshined" them all. I wasn't surprised but I was devastated the day we learned we'd lost Layne Staley forever.

I understand why Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez wanted to continue on as Alice in Chains. Jerry wrote or co-wrote 90% of the material, sang on a lot of it, and is of course the lead guitarist. He's a massive part of the sound and legacy of the band. I understand them wanting to play these songs live, something they were unable to do for much of their career. I understand it. I support it… up to a point. That point? New music under the old name. Let me be clear: I'm not mad at them for doing it. I'm just not sure I can get past my own barrier. It's not them, it's me. Jerry Cantrell is still great. This record may be great. I just don't know that it can be Alice in Chains. Not for me. I haven't decided if I'm getting this disc or not. I wish them well.

Mariah Carey
Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel

Her latest once again comes with a campy, pretentious title attempting depth and sophistication: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. This comes on the heels of The Emancipation of Mimi. Some of these R&B/pop diva titles kill me. Who Is Jill Scott? Good question. Next. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That sounds like a fun one. On How Life Is. Shoot me. So, we have Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel coming from a woman who has done her best to surgically sculpt perfection and has the emotional depth of a 12-year old girl.

You lot are going to buy this by the ton. I used to get angry at you for it. Not anymore. You can have it. I wash my hands of you.

Big & Rich
Greatest Hits

Lest you think I only take cheap shots at cheap artists, let's take aim at Big & Rich. Greatest Hits sounds a bit like wishful thinking, you ask me. They had one with "Save A Horse, Ride a Cowboy," a song so vapid it embarrasses Mariah Carey. They got another bit of run on ESPN's College Gameday show with "Coming To Your City," which was incredible in its ability to make Lee Corso the second-most annoying thing about that program.

The good news is Greatest Hits can sometimes be the final chapter in a bad book, a book with a lot more pictures than words in this case. Whole Lotta Dumb…

Now for what I'm truly angriest about this week…

Michael McDonald
This Christmas

Jewel's Christmas album, an album I reviewed in college and for which I was awarded, made me wish I was Jewish. This one makes me consider atheism. Atheists don't have assclowns like Michael McDonald screwing up their sacred holidays. This is offensive. This is indecent. I can deal with vapid pop diva drivel from Mariah Carey. I can tolerate redneck doofuses like Big & Rich. Michael McDonald is unforgivable and a Michael McDonald Christmas album is a war crime. I can't possibly express the tonnage of my outrage.

McDonald is the "rock" equivalent of Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera and the like. Let's get this straight right now: husky warbling is no more soulful than hyperactive trills and overemotive shrieks. Michael McDonald is breaking my poor mother's heart because I'm going to skip This Christmas and every Christmas thereafter.

About Josh Hathaway

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    I hope you give the new AIC a chance. It really proves that while Layne was a big part of the band, he was not the band, as many thought. Layne’s solo stuff was good but just “off” enough that the thought of AIC minus Layne was alarming. No alarm needed – this sounds like everything expected from the band. Some may not like it because it carries on from the self-titled album’s sound, but that’s exactly why I like it so much. Very surprised, very, very pleased with it. Definitely going to get a lot of play.

  • babyt

    Jerry is a master of his craft and was teh driving force of AIC. you’d be foolish not to get the new album as it is a masterpiece and perfect comeback album. There is no replacin Layne adn Jerry has states so. But they are still capable of making the same dark metal we all love. You are only depriving yourself. You should support the badn you say you love, especially in the most important time to them. This album deserves all the kudos it’s been getting and hats off to them.

  • ZonkyAtheist

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about how Alice in Chains is not Alice in Chains without Layne Staley. They should have just made a new band name and let AIC be an awesome chapter in their musical story. Also….Mariah Carey….uuggghhhhhh!! Blahhh!!!! I’m puking at the thought of the title of her album. What a pretentious, disillusioned bimbo. “Oooohh look at me. I’m an imperfect angel, but an angel nonetheless”. Kill me!!!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I understand your hesitancy regarding AIC, but think you should give them a chance

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i’ve only heard the one tune (“Check My Brain”, i think) but really like it. dark & heavy.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Tom, when you refer to Layne’s solo stuff, what are you referring to? Mad Season or the stuff he wrote on his own for the band?

    Tom, Bicho, Mark, thanks for the input. I haven’t ruled out rolling the dice on this and it’s all in my own head. I don’t have a problem with them using the name, but AiC means something specific to me. This may be good. This may be great. I don’t know if it can still be AiC. I’m still having trouble deciding but curiosity may well win out.

    Babyt, I don’t have to pledge allegiance or prove my devotion.

  • http://themoodymusings.blogspot.org jasonspraggins

    An interesting fact on the AIC album is that Elton John will be a guest musician on a track. It seems the band members are fans and that Elton John was the late lead singer’s first concert.

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Josh, I was speaking of Jerry’s solo-only stuff, not Mad Season. I don’t dislike his solo work, but there’s a distinctly “not AIC” vibe there even though the elements are all in place. I do stand by my assessment of it branching from the self-titled album, however, rather than harking back to Dirt or Facelift, and I know some, for whatever reason, don’t like the “mature” direction AIC went with that album (it may just be my favorite, however.)

    I really hope you can keep your mind open to it, but approach it when you feel more open to it. To me it very much continues the band’s legacy and I think you’ll eventually want to check it out. But I definitely know how wrong it is to rush into albums you’re not quite sold on – it can totally ruin the experience. Better to wait until the need grips you rather than buy it out of obligation.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    hey, i’m buyin’ the new Kiss record and that ain’t the original lineup…so man up with the Alice in Chains!

    ;-)

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Saw AiC on Kimmel last night and they sounded decent. They’ll be on tonight aswell, f.y.i…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    One last thing on this subject…although my instinct is to give this new AiC the benefit of the doubt, I also kinda see Josh’s point. These “Mach 2″ type things rarely work (the only exceptions that spring to mind are probably Dio Black Sabbath and Collins’ Genesis…and that last one is debatable.

    -Glen

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    and Collins’ Genesis…and that last one is debatable

    i’ve always though of them as two completely different bands. one to my liking, one not.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    They probably were at that, Mark…two completely different bands that is.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    So that said, which one gets into the Rock Hall? The Gabriel version has my vote.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    hmm..well, given who is in the hall already, i guess i’d say both.

  • http://sterfish.blogspot.com Sterfish

    I can’t believe you made fun of all those R & B album titles (with most of the actual albums being 10 times better than Mariah’s recent stuff) but not Ghostface’s. The title of his album makes it sounds like it should’ve been on MST3K. And I say that as a Ghostface fan.

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Add to the “mach 2″ list Van Halen with Sammy. HUGE. Maybe in retrospect they weren’t as satisfying as DLR’s VH, but they sure sold a hell of a lot of albums. And I’d say it’s not even debatable about Genesis – Phil Collins taking over lead vocals was without a doubt a major, unqualified success (and I listen to his period a lot, LOT more than the Gabriel period.) Now if you’d said Ray Wilson . . . (and, as mentioned before, I LIKE Calling All Stations.) There are many other exceptions where it worked – Deep Purple, King Crimson, Marillion, AC/DC, and let’s not forget Journey. That last album of theirs actually sold 1.2 million copies, believe it or not.

    AIC, however, is quite different – they only lost one of two co-singers, not the lead vocalist like most other bands. The identity of the band is still very much intact because Jerry’s vocal presence is and always was a major part of their sound. The addition of William Duvall in place of Layne just isn’t THAT big of a change. Alice In Chains still sounds like Alice In Chains.

  • http://www.riddledphantasms.com R.P.M.

    I heard they were going to be on late night 2 nights in a row. I don’t know Tom, personally I would have to see them live in a venue that holds 700-2000 ppl max. That would give a fair assessment of them. To be dismissive the effect that Layne had on the band is pretty bold. I saw them in 1992, and 2x in 93 and 1x 1994. They were on their game Dirt and Jar of Flies were out and from what I have heard it was like listening to John ‘Cougar’ Mellancamp. I will give them more of a chance and try to catch them live before trashing thme

  • http://www.riddledphantasms.com R.P.M.

    Also why does the cover of their album look like it belongs on Pearl Jam’s Backspacer…eek

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    As someone who has seen them live, the new AIC works.

    Mach 2 works better than you think. Dickinson was Maiden’s second singer. Pink Floyd did well after losing Syd.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Bicho: Pink Floyd, Maiden
    TJ: Van Halen, Marillion, AC/DC, Crimson

    Quoted for truth gentlemen. Can’t argue with any of those.

    Phil Collins still gives me the heebie-jeebies though. Unless he’s just playing the drums anyway.

    -Glen

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I have to say that Josh is right with his intuition. Mr. Duvall hardly sounds anything like Layne and he either doesn’t have the same range & power or they decided to bury him quite a bit in the mix. He sounds a lot like Cantrell most of the time.

    I also have to agree with R.P.M. that dismissing Layne’s signature vocal style & importance to the sound of the band is pretty bold. Actually, I’d say it is fairly ignorant. I would bet that most people appreciated AIC as a whole but plenty of them were focused on Layne. He had an eerie, soulfulness and a powerful range & visual presence to match, that is until the heroin had its way with him.

    With that said, this album sounds very little like their S/T release(“Tripod”) with exception to Cantrell possibly using the same amp,cab, guitar and mindset towards his lead riffing and solos. This album is lacking that Sabbath-Like Bluesy power, the signature Cantrell electric leads(possibly Country tinged) & the passionately harmonized dual-vocals that were on DIRT and even somewhat present on Jar of Flies.

    Still, I would suggest that he take this CD for, at least, one spin. IMHO, its a decent hard rock release but I miss the AIC that had those psychedelic moments that built into an all out rage. I would say they aren’t as heavy and don’t stand out as much as they used to. BUT, I give them credit for moving forward and their next album could be better. I think that has to do with rusty band mechanics and having more time to work with Duvall.

    (Currently listening to Last Action Hero tracks & Dirt)